Getty Images

No. 16 Washington secures Pac-12 North with Apple Cup upset of No. 8 Washington State

2 Comments

It’s been a dream season in more ways than one for No. 8 Washington State and everything was there for the taking on Friday night. A Pac-12 North title, a conference championship, a potential Rose Bowl berth and perhaps, if things broke their way, a trip to the College Football Playoff was on the line for the Cougars in their final home game of the year.

There was just one problem: that team from the other side of the state relishes playing spoiler for their rivals when the stakes are the highest.

Such was the case again as No. 16 Washington braved blizzard-like conditions on the Palouse to knock off Wazzu 28-15 and capture the Pac-12 North title for a second time in three years.

Seniors played a big role in the game for the Huskies as they won their sixth in a row in the series, none of which came close to being as cold, snowy, icy or windy as things were at Martin Stadium for this one. QB Jake Browning only threw three incompletions despite those elements but was reduced much more to game-manager status with 207 yards and a bad red zone interception in the first quarter. He was no doubt fine with that in keeping his record perfect against the in-state rivals during his career on Montlake and especially so given that it was a big night for his teammate in the backfield as Myles Gaskin rushed for 170 hard-fought yards and three touchdowns.

Wideout Aaron Fuller was responsible for UW’s other score that came off a Chris Petersen special: a reverse pass trick play that found a wide-open Hunter Bryant in the end zone.

While there will be plenty of taunts from those in purple and gold that the Cougs, well, Coug’d this one, that wasn’t the case.

Heisman candidate Gardner Minshew threw for only 152 yards on 35 attempts against one of the best secondaries in the country (the weather was obviously a factor too) but didn’t quite have another rally left in him. Tailback James Williams had a nice night as the one player who could find some success on offense for Mike Leach’s crew, rushing for 65 yards and a pair of touchdowns while also catching seven passes for 30 yards.

Not all is lost for Wazzu however, as the team is likely to be ticketed to a New Year’s Six Bowl even with the loss should they remain in the top 12 of the standings. That will be a bitter-sweet trip to either the Fiesta or Peach Bowl if it does indeed happen come Selection Sunday given what was in front of the team on Friday night but such is life after one of the best rivalries up in the Pacific Northwest.

The Huskies, meanwhile, can look ahead to the Pac-12 Championship Game next Friday night against Utah at Levi’s Stadium. The two have already played this season, staging a defensive-minded game that Washington won 21-7 back in mid-September. Both teams have had several up’s and down’s since that meeting and it is safe to say they enter as very different teams when they meet again.

The end goal is still there for the taking for the preseason Pac-12 favorite though: a conference title, a Rose Bowl berth and a bit of respect.

Starting Nevada safety transfers to BYU

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Nevada’s secondary loss will turn into BYU’s gain.

In early December, it was reported that Nephi Sewell will be transferring from Nevada.  Less than two weeks later, Sewell took to Twitter over the weekend to announce that he has decided to continue his collegiate playing career at BYU.

The move serves as a homecoming for Sewell as the defensive back played his high school football in the state of Utah.

As a sophomore this season, Sewell started all 10 games in which he played after starting eight games in 2017. His 53 tackles in 2018 were good for sixth on the team.

Sewell’s older brother, Gabe Sewell, is a junior linebacker for Nevada and currently leads the Wolf Pack in tackles with 85.  His younger brother, Penei Sewell, is a freshman offensive lineman at Oregon.

Kentucky’s Josh Allen adds fourth national trophy honor

Getty Images
Leave a comment

When it’s all said and done, Josh Allen is going to need a bigger trophy cabinet — or at least significantly expand his current one.

Monday, it was announced that the Kentucky senior was named as the 2018 recipient of the Jack Lambert Award. That trophy is handed out annually by the Touchdown Club of Columbus (OH) and given to the national linebacker of the year.

Previously this awards season, Allen had been named as the winner of the Bronko Nagurski Award (HERE) and Chuck Bednarik Award (HERE) as well as the recipient of the Ronnie Lott IMPACT Trophy (HERE). He also earned unanimous first-team All-American honors.

Allen’s 14 sacks this season set the football program’s single-season record, while his 28.5 career sacks are the most ever for a member of the Wildcats.

Utah State OC Troy Taylor named head coach at FCS Sacramento State

Getty Images
Leave a comment

For the second time since the 2018 regular season came to an end, Kyle Whittingham has seen one of his assistant coaches leave for a head-coaching job.

Exactly a week ago, Utah State announced that Utah associate head coach Gary Andersen was returning to again lead the Aggies.  Monday, Sacramento State announced that Troy Taylor has been hired as the FCS program’s next head football coach.

Taylor, who spent two seasons as Whittingham’s offensive coordinator, was the starting quarterback at Cal in the late eighties after playing his high school football in the state of California.  He also began his coaching career at the high school level near Sacramento.

“I am thrilled to be the new head football coach at Sacramento State,” Taylor said in a statement. “My family and I are excited to move back home and take on the challenge of building the Hornet Football program into something the city can be very proud. I want to thank President Nelsen, Mark Orr and the rest of the search committee for giving me this opportunity.”

With bowl season left, Utah is sixth in the Pac-12 and 67th nationally in scoring 28.7 points per game.  In Taylor’s first season in charge of the offense, they averaged 29.5 ppg.

Whittingham has already replaced Andersen with former Ute football player Sione Po’uha.

Nick Saban says Tua Tagovailoa ‘probably ahead of schedule’ in recovery from ankle surgery

Getty Images
2 Comments

One of the biggest storylines leading into the 2018 College Football Playoff is the health of this year’s Heisman Trophy runner-up.  With Alabama’s date with Oklahoma less than two weeks away, the signs are pointing in a positive direction for Tua Tagovailoa.

The sophomore quarterback suffered a high-ankle sprain in Alabama’s SEC championship game win over Georgia two weeks ago and underwent surgery shortly thereafter to help aid the healing process.  Monday, Nick Saban sounded decidedly optimistic in giving an update on the status of his starter, who has participated at least partly in all four of the Crimson Tide’s practice session since the title game.

“He’s doing well,” the head coach said by way of ESPN.com. “I think he’s probably ahead of schedule. He’s been able to take a lot of reps. He’s been able to throw the ball from the pocket. He can run. …

“I don’t think he’s 100 percent in terms of change of direction yet. But he’s already going 100 percent on the gravity treadmill. So he’s been able to practice and he’s made really, really good progress. So we’re encouraged by that.”

Tagovailoa had been bothered by knee issues for a sizable chunk of the regular season before hurting his left ankle earlier this month.

Top-ranked Alabama will face Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray and Oklahoma in the Dec. 29 Orange Bowl, which this season is serving as one of the two playoff semifinals.  The winner of that game will face the Notre Dame-Clemson in the national championship game next month.